The Budget 2008: Green or Greenwash?

20 March 2008

Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling delivered a budget that might be called “Watercolour Green” – a rather diluted transparent green wash. There were environmental measures, but not the decisive strokes that would position the UK strongly as a greening economy.

The measures:

A new aviation tax to replace air passenger duty is proposed from 1 st November 2009, though the exact nature of the measure is still to be decided.

All new non-domestic buildings are to be zero carbon by 2019. Green Homes and Smart Meters will also help reduce emissions.

The car fuel duty increase planned for April 2008 is postponed to 1 st October.

Vehicle Excise Duty is being restructured so that motorists will gain from using the most environmentally friendly cars.

The government is going to launch yet another consultation on renewable energy. If it was possible to generate electricity from consultants and consultations then Britain surely would not face any energy problems.

On overall carbon emissions the government accepts the recent finding that emission reduction should be 80% and not the current target of 60% by 2050. The Climate Change Committee will be advising the government about this.

Finally, retailers are going to be asked to take voluntary action to reduce the use of plastic bags, probably by putting a charge on them, with the threat of mandatory measures if this fails.

Green organisations have generally felt that the budget was weak on environmental measures.

Friends of the Earth's director Tony Juniper said: "The chancellor promised to put sustainability at the heart of today's announcement, but he has merely tinkered in the margins. Mr Darling should have used this budget to tackle climate change - the biggest challenge the world faces - by making it cheaper and easier for people to go green, including tax breaks for greening the home, and grants for renewable energy. He did announce a number of welcome green initiatives ... but the overall package falls a long way short of what is required. We urgently need real political leadership on this issue."

"The chancellor should have channelled cash into clean technologies, energy efficiency projects and support for the renewables industry. On all these counts, his measures have failed to match the scale of the challenge we face," said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven.

Overall the 2008 budget has some useful green measures but did not go far enough to do more than tinker around the edges of environmental issues.

BBC Budget 2008

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